Weekly Neuroscience Update

UC Santa Barbara scientists turned to the simple sponge to find clues about the evolution of the complex nervous system and found that, but for a mechanism that coordinates the expression of genes that lead to the formation of neural synapses, sponges and the rest of the animal world may not be so distant after all.

Scientists have discovered a mechanism which stops the process of forgetting anxiety after a stress event. In experiments they showed that feelings of anxiety don’t subside if too little dynorphin is released into the brain. The results can help open up new paths in the treatment of trauma patients. The study has been published in the current edition of the Journal of Neuroscience.

The biological role of a gene variant implicated in multiple sclerosis (MS) has been determined by researchers at Oxford University. The finding explains why MS patients do badly on a set of drugs used successfully in other autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease – something that has been a puzzle for over 10 years.

A clinical trial of an Alzheimer’s disease treatment developed at MIT has found that the nutrient cocktail can improve memory in patients with early Alzheimer’s. The results confirm and expand the findings of an earlier trial of the nutritional supplement, which is designed to promote new connections between brain cells.

An international consortium, has taken cells from Huntington’s Disease patients and generated human brain cells that develop aspects of the disease in the laboratory. The cells and the new technology will speed up research into understanding the disease and also accelerate drug discovery programs aimed at treating this terminal, genetic disorder. 

Stem cells that come from a specific part of the developing brain help fuel the growth of brain tumors caused by an inherited condition, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis report.

Findings from the first study directly examining gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) concentrations in the brains of children with ADHD were published last week in the Archives of General Psychiatry. In this new article researchers report finding significantly lower concentrations of GABA in the cerebral cortexes of children diagnosed with ADHD, compared with typically developing children. GABA is the brain’s main inhibitory neurotransmitter. The differences were detected in the region of the brain that controls voluntary movement.

People who are born deaf process the sense of touch differently than people who are born with normal hearing, according to research funded by the National Institutes of Health. The finding reveals how the early loss of a sense— in this case hearing—affects brain development. It adds to a growing list of discoveries that confirm the impact of experiences and outside influences in molding the developing brain. The study is published in the July 11 online issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.

Neuronal abnormalities in the brains of children with obstructive sleep apnea are reversible with treatment, a prospective study has shown.

Although many areas of the human brain are devoted to social tasks like detecting another person nearby, a new study has found that one small region carries information only for decisions during social interactions. Specifically, the area is active when we encounter a worthy opponent and decide whether to deceive them. A brain imaging study conducted by researchers at the Duke Center for Interdisciplinary Decision Science (D-CIDES) put human subjects through a functional MRI brain scan while playing a simplified game of poker against a computer and human opponents. Using computer algorithms to sort out what amount of information each area of the brain was processing, the team found only one brain region — the temporal-parietal junction, or TPJ — carried information that was unique to decisions against the human opponent.

 

Weekly Round-Up

Researchers believe they found a link between the volume of one’s cerebellum and general intelligence. The cerebellum is involved in the coordination of voluntary motor movement, balance and equilibrium and muscle tone. It is located just above the brain stem and toward the back of the brain.

A small but promising study suggests that magnetic stimulation of the brain could aid the recovery of some stroke patients.

Treatment that increases brain levels of an important regulatory enzyme may slow the loss of brain cells that characterizes Huntington’s disease (HD) and other neurodegenerative disorders.

How much do babies remember about the world around them? New research reveals that even though infants can’t remember the details of an object that has been hidden from view, their brains have built-in “pointers” that help them retain the idea that the object still exists even though they can’t see it anymore.

Neuroscience research involving epileptic patients with brain electrodes surgically implanted in their medial temporal lobes shows that patients learned to consciously control individual neurons deep in the brain with thoughts.

Loyola University Medical Center researchers are reporting what could become the first reliable method to predict whether an antidepressant will work on a depressed patient.

How we perceive motion is a significantly more complex process than previously thought, researchers at New York University’s Center for Neural Science, Stanford University and the University of Washington have found. Their results, which appear in the journalCurrent Biology, show that the relationship between the brain and visual perception varies, depending on the type of motion we are viewing.

After birth, the developing brain is largely shaped by experiences in the environment. However, neurobiologists at Yale and elsewhere have also shown that for many functions the successful wiring of neural circuits depends upon spontaneous activity in the brain that arises before birth independent of external influences.